The world traveler of our trio, Peggy Engel, was in Seoul last week and of course found time to check out the thrifted offerings. She knows that no matter where she travels, it’s easy to access the resale clothing scene. She simply Googles “thrift stores in [name of city] and she discovers what that city has to offer. Here’s her report:
For the 30 million residents of Seoul, Korea, thrift stores are gaining new prominence. Used goods are still considered low-status items in many quarters, but that attitude is fading. Salvation Army has a dozen outlets throughout the city. A homegrown charity runs eight Beautiful Stores, which have a mix of new donated goods and used items. There are 15 Vin Prime stores, which are franchised for-profit resale shops, stocked with goods chiefly from Japan. All the stores selling resale items have a black sign posted outside reading “Ropa Usada” with a large orange “R.”
The Beautiful Store I visited was bustling and pristine, with a large silver donation bin outside. Nestled in the artistic Garosu-gil neighborhood in the northwest part of the city’s Gangnam sector, the merchandise is beautifully arranged by clerks wearing green smocks. This outlet, located next to one of the hundreds of small 7-11 stores throughout Seoul, carried everything from new neoprene wet suits for kids ($20) to bags of hedgehog food. Prices were good – a navy/white wool crop top sweater was $3.50 and an immaculate beige leather hobo bag was $5.50.
A white Armani Exchange 100 percent wool scarf was $15 and new Pierre Cardin socks were $1.50. Purses, shoes and jackets were the best bargains.
A beautifully made navy wool blend jacket, fully lined, with inset snap closures and slash pockets, was a bargain $15. Its label – Visit in New York — was unknown to me, but the quality was superb and would fetch at least $300 in the U.S.
I scored a royal blue leather clutch, with optional gold chain strap, for $5.50. I also bought a new, recycled dark grey leather card case for $5 and was given a rose-colored scarf free when I checked out.
The clothing is hung by color. As you might guess in a city where U.S. sizes 12 and above are found in stores advertising “Big Sizes,” most offerings fit U.S. sizes 10 and under.
The shop also stocks housewares, books, and new foods such as honey and teas, and shoes, scarves and some jewelry.
One happy shopper, who says she checks the store every other week, was buying a new large dog bed with handles, lined in sheepskin. The cost was $25. It would be at least $45 in a regular shop, she said. (This city is mad for pets, with hundreds of dog wear stores and multiple cat cafes, where visitors drink coffee and commune with friendly felines for $18 an hour.)
Beautiful Store, 34-Nambusunhwan-ro 351-gil, Gangnum-gu, Seoul. Telephone: 02-3462-3747. www.beautifulstore.org
The four vintage shops in the city, located in the Hongdae Street area near Hongik University, all carry used clothing from one country – America. Cowboy Vintage is typical, a basement shop featuring work overalls, jeans, boots, and sports gear. Its farm chic is pricey — $8 for traditional bandanas that Americans can buy for $1 or less. A used varsity wrestling jacket with leather sleeves was $120! Clearly, I need to clear out my son’s closet and sell the contents in Seoul.